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by Kathleen McSweeney — October 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm 928 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Kathleen McSweeneyIn Arlington, we benefit from great schools, transportation options, unique neighborhoods, urban amenities, community centers, open space and recreational facilities. Many of us were drawn to Arlington because of these community assets.

They did not happen by accident, but from careful planning, wise investments and sound decisions less focused on the passions of the moment and based instead on longer-term thinking and a vision of positive changes to last a generation and more.

Having benefited from those investments and decisions, we now face a new set of generational choices needed to keep Arlington vibrant, diverse and livable.

Housing, schools, transportation, open space — all are inextricably linked. Arlington has lost 15,000 units of market rate affordable housing in the past decade, and with it many working families that helped build this community. Schools are over-crowded. Indications are that the Class of 2027, this year’s kindergarten class, will require more than an additional high school’s worth of seats. Arlington has several master plans — land use, transportation and open space — but not a master plan for new schools.

We need to seize this generational opportunity and have a broad-based conversation about how best to use and invest in public land in Arlington; how best to balance competing needs and functions; how best to accommodate the needs of schools, recreation, public safety, and affordable housing options for all incomes while protecting — and hopefully expanding — open space.

Fortunately, that discussion is starting to happen. I recently joined about 100 Arlington residents to provide comment on the County’s Affordable Housing Study — http://housing.arlingtonva.us/affordable-housing-study/. A key topic was the Public Land for Public Good site evaluation process that is open for public comment until Oct. 31.

Most participants wanted to explore solutions where park land is not lost, while recognizing the demand for community centers, health facilities, libraries, fire stations, parking lots, affordable housing and new schools.

I have also attended Working Group sessions considering whether an elementary school should be built on a portion of County-owned land abutting the Jefferson Middle School and Thomas Jefferson Community Center — http://projects.arlingtonva.us/plans-studies/land-use/thomas-jefferson-site-evaluation/tj-working-group/. This well-defined and run process has frustrated some because APS named TJ as the preferred elementary school site, seeming to preclude a conversation about whether other South Arlington sites projected to have the greatest population increases in the next 10-20 years.

My participation convinced me to urge a more comprehensive look at our needs and how best to address them from a land use perspective.

That is why I was pleased to see Alan Howze, Nancy Van Doren and Barbara Kanninen issue a joint press release calling for a “… broadly, inclusive community process to examine how best to use public land in Arlington to meet our community’s needs.”

They emphasized the responsibility to our children to provide a great education, to residents to protect and enhance neighborhoods, and to taxpayers to be frugal and make prudent investments. (more…)

by ARLnow.com — October 15, 2014 at 10:20 am 4,066 0

Tall brown boots spotted at a beer festival in Courthouse (photo courtesy @SeenInClarendon)Arlington is noted for being home to many male aficionados of brown flip flops.

On Sunday, one observer of local culture might have found the female equivalent of “dudes in brown flip flops” — women in tall brown boots.

At the first annual Arts and Craft Beer Festival in Courthouse over the weekend, Twitter user @SeenInClarendon saw — and photographed — many such pairs of boots, which might seem more appropriate on someone riding a horse than on someone downing a lager and a lobster roll.

Is this a trend that’s especially prevalent in Arlington — a la brown flip flops? Or is it not Arlington-specific? We’ll let you decide.

Photo courtesy @SeenInClarendon

by Rick Keller — October 9, 2014 at 2:00 pm 586 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Rick KellerThe Sierra Club of Virginia has endorsed Alan Howze for Arlington County Board in this November’s election.

Although the streetcar system (which the Sierra Club supports) is often cited as the determining factor between the two candidates, the Sierra Club does not endorse based on one issue or position. Instead, we look for the best environmental candidate across a range of issues, including clean air, energy efficiency, open space, recycling, smart growth as well as transportation as a whole.

Before endorsing Alan, we looked at Alan’s written statements, interviewed Alan, and reviewed his environmental work. Based on that review and his impressive accomplishments, we chose to endorse him.

We previously endorsed Alan when he was one of two 2010 Democratic primary candidates (together with current Del. Patrick Hope) we supported for the then open 47th District seat.

Since 2010, Alan has continued to work for sound environmental initiatives — ones we believe will make him a Board member who will make decisions to support a more sustainable Arlington.

For example, Alan has actively supported expansion of the Arlington ART bus service and Capital Bikeshare stations, both adding to residents’ transportation options. As a member of Arlington’s Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee, he supported the Complete Streets program that makes Arlington streets accessible for pedestrians, bikes and vehicles.

Alan has spoken out about the need to address global warming and the threat that it poses to Arlington, including critical infrastructure such as National Airport and the Water Pollution Control plan. He knows Arlington can’t solve this issue on its own — but that we can take concrete action in our community to reduce carbon emissions and make our community more resilient.

Professionally, Alan has participated in a number of initiatives evidencing to the Sierra Club his deep environmental commitment.

Alan started his own energy audit firm to help homeowners make decisions that benefit the environment and save money. He worked on IBM’s Smarter Planet program, which helps the public sector create energy efficiency systems. He has worked for Virginia’s Natural Resources office and on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Alan understands the need for smart growth and the importance of matching smart growth with policies to protect and expand committed affordable housing. The Sierra Club has guidelines for local activists on affordable housing and neighborhood redevelopment to help guard against gentrification. Alan demonstrated a commitment to helping retain affordable housing and replacing market-rate affordability with committed affordability that protects those units for the next 20 or 30 years. Making sure people living in the affordable units have adequate public transit is part of our guidelines.

The local Sierra Club group (named the Mount Vernon Group, but consisting of members in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and eastern Fairfax and Prince William Counties) endorsed in 2007, and continues to support, the planned streetcar system that will include Arlington, Fairfax County and, eventually, Alexandria. We expect that the system will ultimately be part of a broader regional system.

Our 2007 streetcar review led us to believe that a streetcar system starting at Bailey’s Crossroads and running down to and through Crystal City was the best long term transit option for the growth that was sure to take place on the Columbia Pike and Route 1 corridors. (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — October 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,008 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotOn Oct. 7, the Arlington Civic Federation approved a resolution critical of the position taken before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by the Arlington County Manager. Congratulations to the Civic Federation for taking this step.

The Civic Federation is right that County Manager Barbara Donnellan is giving too little weight to our safety, while giving too much weight to squeezing more tax dollars out of taller buildings in National Airport’s flight path.

What the FAA is considering

The FAA is considering amending its current regulations to take into account situations in which there is a failure of one aircraft engine during takeoff. A principal objective of the change will be to set height limits on new building construction in order to increase our safety. The FAA can make the change after using either one of two alternative procedures. One of those two FAA procedures is significantly faster than the other. Using the faster procedure will enable the FAA’s new safety standards to be put into place sooner. The FAA wants to use the faster of its two procedures.

What the Manager Advised the FAA

The Manager advised the FAA to use the slower of its two procedures. While her July 22 letter paid lip service to safety, the County government’s real motivation is clear from this portion of her letter:

[T]he land use plan for central Rosslyn anticipates the addition of 4.5 million square feet of office use and more than 1,000 new housing units over the next 25 years… Rosslyn’s importance to economic development and sustainability is well-established. Yet its future depends on realizing the development plans as a means to be economically competitive…

The Manager’s Advice Sacrifices Our Safety

Since the Arlington County government has zero expertise in airline safety, it also has zero expertise in weighing the additional risks to the safety of Arlington citizens that will arise from a delay in the effective date of whatever new building height restrictions the FAA ultimately selects. Therefore, Arlington either should have taken no position on which procedure the FAA should use, or Arlington should have come down squarely on the side of its citizens’ safety by advocating for the use of the FAA’s more streamlined procedure.

Would it really be so terrible for Arlington if the FAA’s choice of its streamlined procedure meant that Arlington had to make do with adding only 4.1 million square feet of office use in Rosslyn rather than 4.5 million square feet over the next 25 years?

The Arlington County government has placed the economic interests of developers and the government’s own interest in incremental tax revenue ahead of safety.

That’s wrong.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — October 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm 604 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyYesterday, InsideNova provided a trip down memory lane. Unless you were actively involved in Arlington County Board watching in 2008, you probably missed the acronym. Accessory dwelling units were indeed a hot topic at the time.

As the Arlington Way moved forward on the subject, people seemingly divided themselves into three camps.

Camp No. 1 wanted to increase the amount of affordable housing stock in the county and viewed ADUs as a prime opportunity to do so. Camp No. 2, the biggest and most vocal, wanted to stop the proliferation of living situations that were not in compliance with existing county ordinances, and they did not want to make it easier to create more. And, a smaller camp wanted to protect the private property rights of homeowners to use their homes as they see fit, without government interference.

After months of debate, the final proposal adopted by the County Board made creating ADUs so cost-prohibitive that virtually no one has taken advantage of the new ordinance — “less than a dozen” in total. As an aside, am I the only one who wonders if it’s less than a dozen why they cannot tell us if that means one or 11?

So, at the end of the day, camp three may have been the de facto winner. Some people with illegal units do not realize they are in violation of any ordinance. Some realize they are, but are just taking a chance it will never be enforced.

This outcome was predicted by many at the time, including the then-county manager. Unfortunately, telling the County Board anything related to a common-sense conclusion often falls on deaf ears.

The Newseum moved out of its Rosslyn space in large part because it was not conveniently located for foot traffic. The County Board unveiled grandiose plans for a self-sustaining Artisphere to take its place. Many told them the plan would not work as promised at the time it was passed. And, it didn’t.

The County Board has been given an early warning signal that the Columbia Pike trolley would create financial headaches when the $1 million bus stop came to light. The Board is charging ahead anyway. And, when traffic on the Pike becomes worse not better, Arlingtonians will be left with nothing to do but pay off the bonds and pay a higher tax rate to cover our annual subsidy to keep the line running.

So what is an ADU really? It is a perfect example of how our County Board makes many controversial policy decisions along the Arlington Way — a lot of talk resulting in a outcome that regularly does not achieve the promised results.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by ARLnow.com — October 6, 2014 at 10:05 am 1,900 0

Columbia Pike streetcar renderingWhat’s in a name? Apparently a lot, if you ask County Board member John Vihstadt. He would like people to stop using the term “trolley” when referencing Arlington’s streetcar project.

As InsideNova reported, although Vihstadt doesn’t support the streetcar, he thinks the word trolley is derogatory and makes people think of the old Rice-a-Roni commercials.

Do you agree that trolley is a derogatory “loaded word” in the debate over Arlington’s streetcar project?

by Mark Kelly — October 2, 2014 at 2:00 pm 617 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyFour years ago, I ran against former Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman. In my first ever column, I took on one of his regular rants against Republicans.

What cannot stand is the notion that all, or even most, fiscal conservatives are anti-government.

In fact, we believe there is an appropriate role for each level of government. The most important of which, outside of self-government, is local government. It is where our tax dollars meet the asphalt. It is where our children attend school, our homes are kept safe, our water is dispensed, and our trash is collected. It is where we can most easily and directly petition our elected officials for assistance. And, at least theoretically, it should be the most responsive to changing community needs with the smallest amount of bureaucracy and red tape.

When Arlington County makes the claim it is a “world-class community,” we expect our government to operate that way. When we pay taxes, we expect results. Our streets should be well-maintained, not full of potholes. Public safety should not be a looming concern. If our schools spend $22,000 per child, we expect a quality education.

It is not too much to ask.

Unfortunately, for too long it seemed as though our one-party-ruled County Board did not have to pay any attention to the pesky fiscal conservatives — even when many from across the political spectrum shared our concerns.

A year after I wrote my first post, Mr. Zimmerman was on his way out as a Board Member. And, voters were given a choice between a fiscal conservative who wanted accountability for County spending decisions, or another Democrat who would simply vote for the status quo.

John Vihstadt won that special election overwhelmingly when voters were presented with that choice. Now, absentee ballots are already being cast for the Nov. 4 election for the full term of this County Board seat.

Since his election this Spring, Mr. Vihstadt has done what he said he would do, including unwavering opposition to the streetcar and holding the Board accountable by asking tough questions about all the big decisions. Mr. Vihstadt has truly been an independent vote and voice on the Arlington County Board. He deserves a full term to continue what he started.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Larry Roberts — October 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm 384 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Larry RobertsThis week, Arlington lost one of its finest community leaders — Dr. Talmadge Williams.

While others were closer to Talmadge and will offer fitting tributes about his many fine attributes and accomplishments, he and I shared many experiences and values. I believe it is fitting for a column titled Progressive Voice to honor someone like Talmadge Williams, who worked tirelessly, humbly and effectively to promote progressive values in Arlington and to promote Arlington County as a progressive community that seeks constantly to move toward Lincoln’s “More Perfect Union.”

Talmadge and I got to know each other through community activities and a shared interest in politics and education. He knew that I was the son and brother of educators and of my roles as an officer and director of a national civil rights organization, helping to elect pioneering African-American elected officials Charles Monroe and Frank Wilson, and working to ensure that Democratic Party organizations at the local and state level reflected the important roles played by African Americans in our County and our Commonwealth.

I knew that Dr. Williams had been pursuing similar efforts far longer, more effectively, and with great passion, skill and grace.

When I reached out to Talmadge to ask him to help me with some of my efforts, he could not have been more encouraging, empowering, and inclusive. Not only did he open doors (literally and figuratively) to homes, churches, and organizations, but he honored me by asking me to help him achieve goals that he was pursuing and participate in organizations he was leading or in which he was an integral figure.

Over the years, Dr. Williams offered advice and wise counsel on an array of issues and community concerns and opportunities. He traveled successfully in so many circles in Arlington that his insights were incredibly valuable and helped move many conversations forward toward solutions. The trust he engendered across the board allowed important dialogues to take place that led to greater understanding and accomplishments.

Though he was humble, Dr. Williams was forceful and firm in his beliefs. His work as president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP showcased his ability to move people to achieve objectives, insist on accountability, and constantly move forward with purpose.

As a proud ambassador for Arlington in regional, state and national organizations, Dr. Williams showed that, in the words of Craig Syphax “his commitment to Arlington County was complete and unequivocal.”

Never one to be satisfied, Talmadge pushed throughout his nearly 40 years in Arlington to move the County to honor its proud legacy — especially, but not limited to, African-American accomplishments — and to build bridges among communities. He pushed Arlington to invest in its future, to govern well, to constantly seek to improve, to achieve justice and fairness, and to create both opportunity and security for all of its residents with a particular emphasis on those in need and those who had faced discrimination.  (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — October 2, 2014 at 1:00 pm 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotOn Sept. 25, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the appointment of a bipartisan Ethics Commission.

“The governor said he expects recommendations on ethics reforms will be completed by December, in time to introduce them next year in the General Assembly,” The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote. “The assembly this year passed changes in laws governing gifts and disclosures but without addressing so-called intangible gifts, such as paid trips for elected officials, or establishing a way to enforce them.”

Even though the composition of the new commission is completely bipartisan (including Republican and Democratic Co-Chairs), it is a testament to the toxic partisanship in Richmond that the appointment of the commission was greeted this way by the Chair of the Republican Party of Virginia: “Trusting Terry McAuliffe to enact ethics reform isn’t just letting the fox guard the hen house, it’s letting the fox design and build the hen house for easier access.”

Since the Republicans control both houses of the Virginia legislature, the potshot that we can’t trust McAuliffe to enact corrective legislation all by himself misses the mark.

Nothing better illustrates the culture of corruption in Richmond than being able to provide “intangible” gifts of unlimited value to willing lawmakers. A 2010-2011 initiative organized by a company seeking approval to open a Virginia uranium mine is a case in point. The company offered to provide trips to France at company expense to almost all of the 140 members of the Virginia General Assembly.

The alleged purpose of the trip was to enable these lawmakers personally to inspect a French uranium mine that had used mining techniques allegedly similar to those that would be used at the proposed Virginia uranium mine. But, a side trip to Paris was part of the package, and this initiative cost the company $10,000 per legislator. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers went on the trip, and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers declined to go. In the end, the company sponsoring these trips paid a total of $122,000 to fly about two dozen members of the Virginia General Assembly to France.

Those legislators who did go on the trip tried to justify their decisions by saying:

  • they were going on an important fact finding mission,
  • they did nothing illegal under state law, and/or
  • their votes could not be bought.

Those legislators who didn’t go on the trip said that, even though the trip wasn’t illegal, it wouldn’t look good to their constituents.

Bottom line

Legislative trips like the uranium mining junket to France are illegal in many other states. We need to make them illegal in Virginia too.

It’s long past time to put toxic partisanship aside on this issue.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Peter Rousselot — September 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm 1,390 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotAs the need to replace a sewer line looms, Arlington County bureaucrats are trying to shift the replacement cost onto the backs of private homeowners in Lyon Park.

After decades of using public funds to pay the maintenance costs of a Lyon Park sewer line, Arlington County staff and lawyers suddenly are spinning fanciful theories to avoid paying to replace the line.

Background

In late Fall 2013, 11 residences in Lyon Park were notified by the County that because of a failing sewer line behind their properties (900 block of N. Danville and N. Daniel Streets), they would be financially responsible for connecting to the County sewer system at a County estimated cost of $10,000 to $20,000 per homeowner. The homeowners were forced to retain a private attorney.

In an Aug. 15, 2014 letter, Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz argues that because the County cannot find in its own files any record of a deed of conveyance of this specific sewer line to the County, the County is not the owner. Therefore, the County has no obligation to pay to replace the line.

In a Sept. 12 reply, the homeowners’ attorney explains that the County assumed ownership of this and other similar sewer lines when it acquired all of the assets of a series of community sewer systems. Because the County acquired all of the assets of each system as a whole, there never were conveyances of individual sewer lines.

Implications

Why is County staff taking such an antagonistic and legalistic position against these 11 Lyon Park residences?

This issue is not unique to this one sewer line. County attorneys and officials have stated in meetings with these homeowners that there may be other such sewer lines in Arlington. That shouldn’t matter because Arlington should be stepping up to the plate and assuming its rightful obligation to pay to maintain and replace all such lines.

It does cost a lot more to replace a sewer line than to maintain one. But, sewer lines are a core government service just like water mains. These are the government services to which Arlington should be assigning the highest priority in spending our tax dollars.

Yet, even though Arlington property owners already have the highest tax bills in Northern Virginia, County bureaucrats are trying to offload all of these sewer replacement costs on a small group of Lyon Park homeowners who are already paying those high tax bills.

If Arlington wants to be the “world-class community” to which it aspires, using our tax dollars to provide first-world sewer service would be a good place to start.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — September 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm 569 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

Last night, Arlington Republicans passed recommendations on the bond questions Arlingtonians will see on the ballot this year.

In terms of dollars and cents, voters will be asked to approve just over $218 million in new debt on Nov. 4. That is roughly $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Arlington — plus interest. It is part of a $2.7 billion, 10-year spending plan on infrastructure projects.

For further perspective, in FY 2015 we will pay $60.7 million to service our current debt obligations. That is roughly 9 percent of our general fund budget.

Republicans recommended a “no” vote on the parks bond. With the aquatics center in an indefinite holding pattern, there are millions of unallocated dollars that were passed by voters under the guise of “parks and recreation.” The Board may have them earmarked for a pool, but this currently available bond authority can be used for the 2014 projects.

Once the Board sorts out the new plans for the pool complex, they can come back to the voters and ask them to approve the final amount. The Board could even try a novel concept, a straight up or down vote on the pool, rather than lumping it in with other “parks and recreation” projects.

Arlington Republicans recommended a “yes” vote on the other three bond measures — each recommendation coming with reservations.

We have a capacity problem in our schools that must be addressed, but a $105.78 million blank check to the School Board is disconcerting to many. Parents and local neighborhoods are feeling left out of the planning process. And, with millions just lying around to buy MacBook Airs for students, many are questioning the way our schools put their budgets together.

The Metro and transportation bond is a lot like “parks and recreation.” Voters vote for it in large part because they support Arlington’s commitment to the Metro. The other transportation projects have often proven questionable. The County Board’s transportation priorities and funding streams should be under a microscope as the Board just approved a $26 million contract for the Columbia Pike trolley. A better way to do transportation bonding would be to approve the Metro bond separately, so that the other transportation projects included could be evaluated on their own merits.

The community infrastructure bond will fund things like 911 communications — certainly tough to vote against. But one could ask why at least some of these items could not be paid for out of the millions in annual closeout funds available to the Board, rather than added to our indebtedness?

Arlingtonians would be well-served to educate themselves on how the County plans to spend their tax dollars and arrive at their own conclusions on the merits of these bonds. They should also consider asking County Board members why controversial projects are often lumped in with other bonds rather than standing on their own merits.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Gillian Burgess — September 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,116 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Gillian BurgessArlington is on the cusp of the most formative decision-making process of recent history: the master planning process for our school system, through which we will create more schools.

The outcomes will impact everyone in the community. We will see reduced or increased congestion on our streets, a wise use of Arlington County’s resources or wasteful spending, and either increased access to services for everyone or only concentrated benefits.

Because of the importance of this process to all of Arlington, the best outcomes will occur through close cooperation between Arlington County government and Arlington Public Schools . Before us is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to come together to both meet the urgent capacity needs of today and lay the foundation for the next generation of Arlington families.

A new, collaborative planning process should make use of both the County’s award-winning expertise in transportation and smart development and our school system’s award-winning expertise in educating children. I am confident that active involvement by our talented APS and County staffs, elected officials and interested residents in developing this new process will lead to success. A broad, inclusive public process will work.

Arlington is a great place to raise a family. It has incredible parks, bike paths, charming neighborhoods, and some of the best public schools in the nation. These characteristics are no accident, but rather the result of decades of award-winning planning and smart development by the County and APS.

It is for these reasons that I have chosen to raise my family here. And I am not alone. Arlington’s public schools are bursting at the seams and continue to grow rapidly. As this growth has overwhelmed school system capacity, the processes we have relied on to plan school capacity in the past are no longer sufficient.

In the past, long-range planning by APS and County government have largely been separate efforts with different time horizons. The County’s long-range planning considers how corridors or study areas are used over 20 or 30 years. Schools, on the other hand, base their planning efforts on shorter-term projections, and are focused more on the classroom.

In the face of a shortage of public land and our rapidly-growing population, we must do a better job of integrating these processes. We must plan, locate, fund, and build school facilities to serve the long-term interest of all our children and community members. We need to look at the system as a whole rather than ad hoc discussions that consider only one location or need.

Our historically separated planning processes have resulted in historically separated budgets. As we consider the schools’ master planning process, it will be important to look at costs and benefits to Arlington as a whole, whether expenditures are going to be part of the APS budget or the County’s budget.

For example, if a particular school location would require many buses that would increase maintenance costs for our roads, those costs should be considered when evaluating that site. We should also consider costs and benefits not immediately quantifiable that we know will have a significant impact on County and APS budgets over time.

This new, improved collaborative master planning process should be guided by shared values and solid principles. Here are some values and principles that I believe should guide the process. (more…)

by Barbara Favola — September 19, 2014 at 5:00 pm 721 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) and Del. Kaye Kory (D-38), the chairs of the Reproductive Health Caucuses in the Senate and House of Delegates, respectively.

Our health care system is neither healthy nor accessible for many women, but Richmond lawmakers have an opportunity to make improvements. They need to stop playing politics with people’s lives and begin to start governing.

In large swaths of Virginia, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, women are suffering. This suffering affects the well being of all of us, not just the children and communities that are directly affected.

You probably didn’t know that childless, uninsured women are not eligible for Medicaid in Virginia even if they are planning to have children. Moreover, for many mothers who are eligible, they lose their Medicaid coverage 60 days after giving birth because they exceed the very low income requirements to qualify for Virginia’s sparse Medicaid program. This exacerbates an already stressful period in a mother’s life.

In fact, mothers in most parts of Virginia qualify for Medicaid only if they earn less than 40 percent of the federal poverty line. This means that a single mother in Richmond cannot receive Medicaid if she makes $6,100 a year or more. But if Virginia participated in Medicaid Expansion, a program for which we are already sending tax dollars ($5 million per day) to Washington, hard working individuals, including women, earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line would gain insurance coverage. Virginia’s tax dollars are supporting Medicaid Expansion in 29 other States but not here at home!

Medicaid expansion may not be perfect, but the cost of not going forward is astronomical. We all know that maternal health is critically important for the healthy development of a child. This means that prospective moms can only achieve a healthy state if they have access to care before pregnancy as well as access to pre- and post-natal care.  Preventing low-birth weight babies and developmentally delayed babies is something we must embrace. Virginia cannot afford to wait; we must pass Medicaid Expansion now.

by Max Burns — September 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm 944 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Max BurnsWhen the 8th Congressional District first sent Alexandria Mayor Jim Moran to Congress in 1990, Arlington could count the population of young people in single-digit percentages. Nearly a quarter century later, nearly half of our population is between the ages of 18 and 36.

That’s the main finding of a study on young professionals in Arlington released by Arlington Economic Development and based on research questions developed by Southeastern Institute of Research.

But there’s much more to the story of Arlington’s young taxpayers — this influx brings a host of opportunities and challenges for defining the Arlington of the future.

It’s no secret that young people come to Arlington because of our low unemployment rate in a competitive job market. We draw some of the most educated, accomplished young professionals in the country into private sector and government service. We also offer a county that prioritizes green space, walkability, safety and ease of transportation in return. It’s a compelling offer, and one of the reasons I chose to pursue my college work in Northern Virginia nearly a decade ago.

The County Board deserves credit for the long-term plan that built Arlington into a destination for talented, next-generation employees able to contribute to Arlington’s economic vitality. As the “millennials” study shows, the R-B Corridor is a focal point for young professionals interested in dining and nightlife.

What the report doesn’t say is that public planning decades in the making built the R-B Corridor into a mixed-use, open space that serves as a social hub for our young community and creates a strong tax base that helps protect neighborhoods and social services.

The initial Arlington draw may be about well-paying jobs and a safe, well-planned community, but intangibles keep young people around. Many young people learn the value of Arlington’s neighborhoods and their importance to our future. We see young people hoping to build up the resources to buy a home in Arlington and to consider putting down roots and starting a family.

This does not happen by accident. Arlington County has found ways to involve young professionals meaningfully in the mechanisms of managing a municipal space. Our County boards and commissions are dotted with young faces new to policy alongside those longer-term residents who have helped build Arlington into a modern magnet for growth. Institutional knowledge isn’t hoarded — it’s shared between generations to develop new and capable civic leaders.

That extends to our politics as well. I have the privilege of serving as President of the Arlington Young Democrats and working with some of the most intelligent, focused young people I’ve ever met. They’re interested not just in winning elections, but in doing good for Arlington County and shaping the dialogue around what our home will be in years to come. They hope that the county will not retreat from the sound policies that have made Arlington such an attractive place to live for people of all ages.

It is also a privilege to compete respectfully with my counterpart in the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans, Matthew Hurtt. While we don’t agree on every policy or proposal, our shared hope for Arlington’s continued success breeds a mutual respect often lacking in other communities. (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — September 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotWhile Virginia’s poor continue to get sick and die without access to adequate health care, Virginia’s Republican legislative leaders — unlike Republican leaders in many other states – have not presented a leadership proposal to address this issue.

During Virginia’s 2014 regular legislative session, Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, lobbied the legislature for a straightforward Medicaid expansion proposal. He failed. After the legislature turned him down, he ordered his Secretary of Health to present a plan for unilateral Medicaid expansion by the executive branch. Facing the prospect that such large-scale unilateral action would likely be overturned in the courts, Governor McAuliffe backed down.

Instead, he presented a very small unilateral expansion plan. According tot The New York Times, under McAuliffe’s latest plan,:

[O]nly 25,000 uninsured Virginians would be receiving coverage, far fewer than the 400,000 he has said are eligible if the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The retreat [signaled] Mr. McAuliffe’s acceptance that he is politically hemmed in, especially after Republicans took control of both houses of the General Assembly following the surprise resignation of a Democratic senator in June.

We get it. Virginia’s Republican legislative leaders have proven they won’t agree to a straightforward Medicaid expansion, while McAuliffe has (tacitly) acknowledged that he lacks the constitutional power to go it alone. Where does that leave the 375,000 poor Virginians who will continue to lack adequate health care even if McAuliffe’s latest plan goes into effect? It leaves them just where they are now. That’s wrong.

The Virginia legislature is scheduled to reconvene in a special session this week — supposedly to consider what to do about this issue. 100 Delegates and 40 Senators are returning to Richmond for a special legislative session at taxpayer expense. But, how can we Virginia taxpayers reasonably expect this to produce a coherent compromise if the leadership on one side — the Democrats — has presented one plan after another for a year, while the leadership on the other side — the Republicans — has presented no plan at all? We can’t.

Virginia’s Republican legislative leaders don’t need to re-invent this wheel. They can pick and choose from a whole host of options pioneered by Republican leaders in many other states like Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

In describing his plan, Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett noted:

From the beginning, I said we needed a plan that was created in Pennsylvania for Pennsylvania — a plan that would allow us to reform a financially unsustainable Medicaid program and increase access to health care for eligible individuals through the private market. 

Memo to Virginia’s Republican legislative leaders: where is your leadership plan created in Virginia for Virginians?

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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